4 Words for Parents of Teens

In November, my two teen daughters and I attended Girls of Grace, an event put on by speakers and musicians who have a heart for teen girls. I’ve worn the title of mommy, mama, mom — it differs depending on the child who speaks it and the mood they’re in — for twenty-seven years, and as much as my girls needed a good word spoken, I needed support and encouragement in this work of motherhood, too.

We’ve raised newborns, toddlers, terrible two-year-olds, preschoolers, school-aged kids, and pre-teens in our family — and those were challenging years (aren’t they all?) — but I’ll take the physical demands of a colicky newborn, sleep deprivation, and childproofing a house/house-proofing a child over the emotionally demanding work of parenting a teen.

Some children demand more attention than others, but they all need it. The saying, “Still waters run deep,” is true; don’t neglect the ones that don’t seem to need you as much. And although there are times when one requires more of your energy, my mother always reminded me I can’t devote all my time to one child.

During the afternoon breakout session at Girls of Grace, the moms met separately with the ladies from the group Point of Grace, who hosted the conference, and Trudy Cathy White, daughter of Truett Cathy. They shared wisdom from their own experiences and conversations they’d had with a group of at-risk teen girls.

Here’s what those girls shared:

Listen when we talk.

Just as a mother learns the importance of establishing eye contact with a young child when she instructs him, looking your child in the eye shows that you are listening attentively.

Ask the hard questions.

Some answers are difficult to hear, but our children need us to ask. Then, we can help.

Ask the hard questions again — we may not tell the truth the first time.

Truth is painful to divulge sometimes. Fear of causing disappointment, being judged, or punishment may cause a teen to be less than truthful. Ask again and have tough conversations in person.

Some of the most powerful words I heard that day were “pray that your children get caught when they do wrong.” It’s hard to watch our children pay for their mistakes, but bad habits unchecked not only wound your child and others but they multiply.

I’ve made mistakes where I was caught and ones where I wasn’t, and for me, the shame and pain of sins uncovered served as a powerful deterrent. You probably remember examples from your own life.

Show and tell your faith.

Live your faith, but be sure to speak it, too. Your children may not understand your heart as clearly as you think. This might be difficult for you if faith wasn’t spoken of openly in your home as a child, but it’s important.

We are our children’s prayer warriors. I’ve prayed prayers that would never have been uttered if I didn’t believe God loves my children even more than I do:

Lord, build a hedge around him.

Lord, don’t break him but hinder him when he does wrong.

Lord, let her feel the weight of her words and how deeply they cut others.

Lord, let him grow to hate his sin.

We cannot protect them from everything, but we can pray to a God who loves them and who will guide them in truth.

Our culture wants our daughters to believe that looks determine their value. Age-appropriate behavior and clothing have become hopelessly skewed. Tell them they’re loved by you and by God and that their worth is in Him as daughters of the King. They’re not only their daddy’s princess, they’re God’s, too.

For our sons, society wants them to believe that males and females are alike and behaving like a gentleman is offensive. Once my boys were old enough, I gave them opportunities to open doors for me and thanked them when they did. I’m affectionate with them, too. Tough and tender can go hand in hand.

Just this evening, while I was working on the computer, my twelve-year-old son stopped what he was doing and fixed my tea when he heard the timer go off, brought me a bowl of peanut M&Ms to snack on, and warmed a heating pad for my shoulders. I pray he’ll treat females with respect and make a considerate husband one day.

Your teen daughters might resist gentlemanly behavior from your sons and other males — our culture preaches a different message — but they’ll grow to appreciate it. Remember the ideas you had at that age? I do. They changed with time.

Mamas, don’t be afraid to raise your children counter-culturally. We need a rising generation whose faith and principles are strong. Truth is powerful.

If God is for us, who can be against us?
Roman 8:31 (NIV)

What are your greatest parenting challenges, and what have you
learned on the journey?

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